The British man who was shot dead after taking four people hostage at a synagogue in Texas had been on the radar of MI5, Sky News understands.
The Security Service began looking into Malik Faisal Akram, 44, in the second half of 2020 to assess whether he posed a security threat, a Whitehall source said.
The suspicion that had been raised about him was related to Islamist terrorism.
Four prison sentences for violent disorder and harassment
He had also been in prison four times, between 1996 and 2012, for a range of offences including violent disorder, harassment and theft, Sky News understands.
Akram, who was from Blackburn in Lancashire, took four people, including a rabbi, hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday.
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He is said to have demanded the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of trying to kill US army officers in Afghanistan, and is in prison in Texas.
Akram was shot dead by an FBI SWAT team 10 hours into the stand-off and all four hostages were released unharmed.
Sky News understands he arrived in the US via New York’s JFK International Airport shortly before the New Year before buying the handgun he used in the siege.
MI5 concluded ‘no credible threat to national security’
Questions have now been raised into how he was able to enter the US with a criminal record and being known to MI5.
Their so-called “short-lead investigation” into Akram concluded that there was no “credible threat to national security at that time”, the source said.
It meant that no longer term investigation or further monitoring of Akram was carried out.
“He never reached the threshold” to justify further investigation, the source said.
The source declined to say how long Akram had been looked into other than to say that the investigation had lasted more than four weeks and either ended in the back half of 2020 or by early 2021.
After the investigation concluded that Akram did not pose a threat at that time, he would have joined the ranks of some 40,000 individuals who have at some point been a subject of interest of MI5.
A “short lead investigation” is a term given for a form of investigative process by MI5 into an individual that comes before a longer term, covert investigation.
Reported by prison imam for ‘disruptive behaviour’ at prayers
Sky News understands that Akram was jailed for six months for violent disorder in 1996 and spent time at a young offenders’ institute before being moved to an adult prison.
He was back in prison a year later for destroying property, before another sentence in 1999 for harassment and breaching the terms of his release.
Akram was last remanded into custody in 2012, but the case against him was dropped.
However while on remand at HMP Liverpool he was reported by the prison imam for “concerning at disruptive behaviour” at Friday prayers.
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